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Do wearable defibrillators save lives?

Cardiac arrest is often a sudden and fatal event that can be treated with cardiac defibrillators.

Researchers investigate if wearable defibrillators are an ideal solution for high-risk pediatric patients.

Cardiac arrest is sudden heart failure which leads to loss of blood circulation.

While certain risk factors can increase your chance of cardiac arrest such as diabetes and high blood pressure, cardiac arrest can affect anyone at any age regardless of health.

Cardiac arrest is often fatal. It is estimated that about 360, 000 patients experience cardiac arrest outside of a hospital every year in the United States, and only 7.9% will survive.

Patients with a high risk of having cardiac arrest are often given an implantable defibrillator, which detects when a patient is experiencing cardiac arrest and will supply an electrical shock to restart normal heart activity.

Some patients at high risk may not be suitable for defibrillator implants

However, certain high-risk patients may not require or be recommended an implantable defibrillator.

Since these devices are directly implanted into the heart, they are a risk to the patient for infection. Additionally, high-risk patients that may recover over time should not receive such a long-term and invasive procedure.

Researchers have developed an alternative wearable defibrillator to solve this dilemma.

Wearable defibrillators offer the same immediate life-saving action implantable defibrillators offer but in a less invasive and more flexible manner.

Wearable defibrillators are attached outside the patient’s body for constant heart monitoring and are easily removable.

While wearable defibrillators are commonly used and understood in adult patients, there is limited research on their effectiveness in children.

In a recent study published in the journal Circulation: Arrhythmia and Electrophysiology, researchers investigated the efficiency of pediatric wearable defibrillators.

The researchers retrospectively examined patients 18 years old or younger who received a wearable defibrillator.

Researchers grouped patients into either patients that received a wearable defibrillator due to complications with their implantable defibrillator (group 1), or patients that received a wearable defibrillator for any reason (group 2).

Defibrillator data was gathered and analyzed for cardiac arrest events.

A total of 455 patients were analyzed with a median age of 15. Sixty-three belong to group 1. The median wear time was 20.6 hours over the course of 33 days.

Wearable defibrillators are efficient in treating high-risk patients

The researchers found eight patients received cardiac resuscitation from their wearable defibrillator, two of which were misfirings due to overly sensitive devices.

Seven patients died during the course of the study, however, none carried their wearable defibrillator at the time of death.

Indeed, there were no recorded deaths of patients who received normal cardiac resuscitation from their wearable defibrillators, suggesting wearable defibrillators are highly effective for treating high-risk cardiac arrest pediatric patients.

Cardiac arrest is often a sudden and fatal event that can be treated with cardiac defibrillators.

Researchers investigating the efficiency of wearable defibrillators found them to be exceptionally useful at preventing fatalities in high-risk cardiac arrest patients, with no recorded deaths when patients were wearing the device.

Though the researchers found wearable defibrillators may cause itching and skin rashes in patients which can lower their wear time, they are optimistic that wearable defibrillators are an ideal alternative to implantable defibrillators.

Written by Aaron Kwong, MSc

Relevant topics that may be of interest to you:


  1. Spar, D. S., Bianco, N. R., Knilans, T. K., Czosek, R. J. & Anderson, J. B. The US Experience of the Wearable Cardioverter-Defibrillator in Pediatric Patients. Circ. Arrhythmia Electrophysiol.11, e006163 (2018).
  2. Wong, M. K. Y. et al. Trends in Short- and Long-Term Survival Among Out-of-Hospital Cardiac Arrest Patients Alive at Hospital Arrival. Circulation130, 1883–1890 (2014).


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